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Full text of "William R. Eidson : a Kansas architect"

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Bill Eidson was truly a Kansas architect. From my 
research for this essay I came to feel that, to Bill, Kansas 
was the source that he drew his strength from and the center 
from which he expanded his skills. 

Bill was born in Clifton, Kansas in 1928 to John and 
Estelle Eidson. It was in Clifton that Bill's mother 
noticed that, even as a very young boy, Bill was interested 
in building. Bill's grandfather was a contractor in the 
Clifton area and Bill delighted in following him around the 
construction site. Bill showed a lively interest in all 
that he saw there. His grandfather commented to Bill's 
mother that, "Young Bill will be a smart boy, he asks more 
questions than I can answer!" Bill told his mother that he 
wanted to be just like his grandfather. 

John Eidson, Bill's father, was in the oil business in 
Clifton. In 1933 he moved his family to Manhattan, Kansas 
to start the Manhattan Oil Company, which he operated for 50 
years. John and Estelle lived and raised their family, in 
the early years, at 1031 Thurston. 

It was in high school that Bill made the decision to 
become an architect. Naturally, he chose Kansas State 
University to study for his degree and in 1951 he graduated 
with a B.S. in architecture. 

While he was attending college Bill met Patti , the 
woman he would marry. Patti was also studying to be an 
architect and later went on to become an instructor in the 
Interior Design Department at K.S.U. They were married in 
1955. Patti and Bill blended their careers and worked 
together on many projects throughout their marriage. Patti 
is now teaching design at Amherst College in Massachusetts. 

After graduation, Bill left Manhattan to take a job 
with Shaver and Associates of Salina, Kansas. At this point 
Manhattan could have lost a promising young architect. But 

fortunately, Professor Paul Wiegal, who was Head of the 
Architecture Department at that time, had taken an interest 
in Bill's career and was concerned that Bill wouldn't meet 
his full potential working within a firm. Bill had a great 
deal of respect for Professsor Wiegal , so when the professor 
went to convince Bill to return to Manhattan and start a 
practice, Bill listened and took his advice. At the time, 
Bill wondered how he would be able to make a living on his 
own. Professor Wiegal suggested that he start by designing 
houses. Soon, Bill was back home in Manhattan. 

With help from his parents it didn't take Bill long to 
turn his modest beginnings into a growing business. He set 
up his drawing table in the rec room of his parents home and 
began by designing a new house for them. This house was 
built at 300 S. Delaware. It was the beginning of a 
challenging and prolific career for Bill. 

Bill read a great deal and, consequently, was very 
aware of the new ideas and new developments that were taking 
place in the world of architecture. In his years at K.S.U. , 
and during the early years of his career, architecture was 
just coming out from under the influence of the inter- 
national style and moving into a more humanistic, organic 
and traditional style of architecture. Marcel Breuer, an 
architect whose work Bill admired \/ery much, was taking 
house design into a new area at that time. Breuer's 
architecture combined the modern and traditional styles by 
using new forms of design with traditional building 
materials. With the use of natural materials, like rough 
wood and field stone, Breuer returned to a vernacular 
architecture that caught the eye of inquisitive architects 
around the country. Bill Eidson was one of those architects 
that took notice. 


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With Bill's awareness of current ideas, and his 
interest in the Flint Hills region of Kansas, he developed a 
style that wasn't imposed on him by the trends of the day, 
but one that he developed through his deep concern for a 
functional and appropriate regional design. His style 
clearly reflects the hills and praries of the region. The 
native limestone that Bill used is now regarded as his 
trademark. The stone makes an effective reference to Kansas 
history and geology. He built walls of glass open to the 
prarie vistas; the unpainted wood that he used was intended 
to be worn and weathered by the Kansas wind; the heavy posts 
and beams are often exposed to the interior assuring the 
inhabitants that their home is here to survive for many 
seasons in a, frequently, harsh environment. 

Jack Durgan, one of Bill's good friends and currently 
Head of the Interior Design Department at K.S.U., feels that 
Bill based his regionalism on a relationship of material, 
space, structure and construction. He feels that Bill 
integrated these elements to create an environmentally 
sympathetic architecture. Jack also speaks of Bill's ideal 
design process, his holistic approach to design. Bill was 
concerned with every aspect of the building process, from 
the site, to the design of the space, to the choice of 
materials and the construction itself. Bill felt strongly 
that a good relationship between the architect, the 
contractor and the supplier was essential in creating 
successful architecture. 

Bill died on January 13th, 1979. His career lasted 
approximately 30 years. In that time, with his philosophy 
of regionalism and skill as an architect, he made an 
important contribution to the life of Manhattan. His 
contribution, however, wasn't entirely one of providing 
Manhattan with some of it's finest buildings. I feel that 

he made another, more personal, contribution to Manhattan. 
When he accepted Paul Wiegal's challenge to return to 
Manhattan he \iery likely did so with dreams of the buildings 
he wanted to create and the awareness that if he stayed in a 
small town the opportunities to develop a unique arch- 
itecture might not be his. He could have been a successful 
architect anywhere he went, but he accepted the challenge, 
stayed, and found that Manhattan and the Flint Hills gave 
him the spirit he needed to not only be a successful 
architect, but also a special architect. His example may 
encourage Manhattan's young people to create their futures 
in the regional sense that Bill created his architecture. 
Bill's talent as an architect surely came, in part, 
from his identity with this area and his concern for the 
community he lived in. We get a sense of Bill's spirit and 
personal involvement in the community with his answer to 
this question asked by the board of trustees of the 
Manhattan Public Library in their proposal questionaire: 
Why would you like to design this building? 

In my opinion the new Public Library 
for Manhattan is the most important building 
project that will ever be undertaken by this 
City ... a building with the potential of being 
a work of Architecture. The very function of 
the building and its relationship to all the 
citizens of the community and to that one basic 
human attribute, intelligence, makes it absolutely 
imperative that whoever is selected to be the 
Architect for this project, he must produce 
Architecture, not just another building. True 
Architecture is very hard to define and in 
general is in the eye of the beholder, at least 
the aesthetics are. Architecture must not only 


be beautiful but functional, for they are one in 
the same. There is one thing that is true of 
Architecture that is true of all knowledge and 
that is it is a product of the human intellect. 
No matter how thorough the research of the problem, 
the technical know-how of the Architect, there 
must be added the spark that produces Architecture, 
and, like any other work of art, this spark comes 
from the individual who conceives it. 

I would like very much to be selected as 
the Architect for the new Manhattan Public Library. 

On the following pages I have presented a portrait of 
Bill Eidson through his architecture. These are only a few 
of the many fine homes and buildings he designed in his 
career. I hope something of the joy he felt for his work 
and the strength of his character can be seen in these 



" ... the most important design consideration will be that a work of Architecture be produced which will 
reflect the nature of its being, the region in which it is located, and the pride and cultural aspirations of 
this community now, and for future generations." 

Bill Eidson, from his proposal for the new public library. 


The Mr. And Mrs. Richard Hayter residence 
original owner: Mr. and Mrs. R. Stanley Hayes 
1920 Grandview Dr. 1962 

Floor plans (lower level, ground floor). Legend: 
1 living room, 2 dining, 3 kitchen, 4 entry, 5 bedrooms, 
6 bathrooms, 7 deck, 8 garage, 9 rec room, 
10 equipment/utility. 




The Mr. and Mrs. T. William Varney residence 
216 Fordham Road 1968 

Floor plans (lower level, ground floor). Legend: 

I living room, 2 master bedroom, 3 bathrooms, 4 closet, 
5 study, 6 storage, 7 entry, 8 deck, 9 attic, 10 garage, 

II rec room, 12 dining, 13 kitchen, 14 bedrooms, 15 shelter, 
16 laundry, 17 mudroom, 18 equipment, 19 screened porch. 


The Mr. and Mrs. Dean Campbell residence 
original owner: Mr. and Mrs. Phil Howe 
1707 Thomas Circle 




The Mr. and Mrs. Max Mil bourn residence 
original owner: Mr. and Mrs. John Eidson 
300 South Delaware 










International Student Center 
Mid-Campus Dr. and Claflin Rd. 1977 



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W. C. Robinson Education Center 
2031 Poyntz 1965 





First Lutheran Chuch 

928 Poyntz Avenue 1963 




Manhattan Public Library 
Juliette and Poyntz 1968 




For giving me their time and cooperation, and sharing 
their interest in this project with me, I sincerely thank 
Dr. and Mrs. George S. Bascom; Mr. Brent Bowman; Mr. and 
Mrs. Dean Campbell; Mr. Jack Durgan; Mrs. Estelle Eidson, 
Mr. Bob Habiger; Mr. and Mrs. Richard Hayter; Mr. and Mrs. 
Max Milbourn; and Mr. and Mrs. T. William Varney. 

Most of the information I used to write this essay came 
from conversations with Mrs. Estelle Eidson; Mr. Jack 
Durgan, Head of the Department of Architecture at K.S.U.; 
and Mr. Brent Bowman A. I. A. 

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